MEARCSTAPA Mission Statement
MEARCSTAPA (monsters, the experimental association for the research of cryptozoology through scholarly theory and practical application) is an organization that prioritizes the study of marginalized agents and communities in the Middle Ages, and supports and embraces scholars who themselves represent marginalized identities and communities. Our membership is international and inclusive; we welcome scholars from all disciplines, perspectives, and backgrounds. We decry especially those who would reject fact in order to propagate dangerous and self-serving untruths. We affirm that there can be no community without crossing borders, no love without risk.
We have substantive work to do in Medieval Studies to combat a longstanding legacy of actively colonialist and misogynist scholarship, as well as passively exclusionary definitions of what “counts” as proper subjects and approaches for the field. These legacies, and their active perpetuation in the present, push interested parties away; the current climate of dispute and intolerance threatens to drive away postgraduate students considering our fields, recent graduates teetering on the edge of leaving the precariat, and on. We need to be actively welcoming, working creatively to recruit a more diverse base into our undergraduate and postgraduate programs so that we can transform the demographics of the field over time.
We believe that MEARCSTAPA occupies a unique space within the academic discourse of “Otherness” because, in addition to our work on actual human beings and their conflicts, we work on the realm of the fantastic, the preternatural and supernatural “others” who are called into being expressly to shore up the normative structures of the cultures that produce them. Therefore, we resist any refusals to think about the implicit center that is posited by the construction of an “other,” and the coterminous refusal to recognize and combat structural and discursive problems in the field. We must not, as a field, remain ignorant of medieval cultures outside of the majoritarian center; we must not diminish or ignore the experiences our own colleagues in the field who are calling out to let us know that they are being mistreated, and made to feel unwelcome, unwanted, othered in a range of ways subtle and overt.
Our group of affiliated scholars and monster enthusiasts takes the border as its point of departure, understanding monsters as border-walkers who are often made responsible for drawing people, places, and disciplines together even as they are sometimes used to justify exclusion. We seek to understand the monster differently – to see her agency and plenitude, to perceive beyond his allegorical servitude, to refuse to countenance those who would use them to excuse or disguise racism or systematic exploitation. We do not simply welcome or include the border-walker, the other – hospitality is inadequate. We understand instead that self and other are always within each other, that communities overlap and interpenetrate. To deny this is to unmake citizen and community.
We reject further the abuse of history that so often takes the European Middle Ages as an ideal past by imagining it as a time of homogeneity predicated on the exclusion of Jewish and Muslim communities. We deny that the history of the Middle Ages is only a history of the West, and that there is homogeneity even in Western Europe. We affirm instead that the medieval period, like any period, is made up of many diverse communities, traversed by people of many identities, and that its peoples are aware of one another. There is conflict, certainly, but also exchange, exploration, and sharing.